4,600 Miles Away

In The Art of Travel, 4. Politics, Paris by Zoe1 Comment

Let me preface this post by saying gun control in the United States is an immensely difficult and tragic topic to discuss. I apologize if anything in this post is triggering or frustrating to anyone – I’m attempting to share my feelings about this extremely polarising topic while being 4,600 miles away from the US.

Last Wednesday, on February 14th, a gunman killed 17 people and left 15 injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. There have been at least eighteen school shootings in the United States in 2018. And it isn’t even two full months into 2018. That is one shooting every 60 hours. There’s no question that these horrific crimes need to stop but what happens when the guns used in these shootings are purchased legally?

With the influx of shootings in the United States, American gun laws have been subjected to much debate. Guns are, to many people, either a safety threat or a way to practice self-protection — an issue that’s extraordinarily divisive. But the laws surrounding the former are conservative and far too allowing of the purchasing of guns, especially by those who are mentally unwell.

It’s a predictable argument from a liberal, I’m aware, but that doesn’t change the fact that 17 people went to school, a place that is supposed to be a safe haven, last Wednesday and did not return to their homes and to their loved ones. 

This shouldn’t, and can’t, continue to happen.

Being in France during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas made me curious about the gun laws that France has enacted. It’s no secret that France has had terror attacks involving assault weapons in the past few years but in the past six years, there have been two school shootings in France. Why?

Well, France does have strict gun control laws. Psychological tests must be administered prior to getting a gun license, something that the United States does not have. To obtain a gun, a hunting or sporting license is mandatory and needs to be regularly renewed, with required psychological evaluations. If an applicant has any kind of criminal record and applies for a license, they will be promptly refused. Around 18,000 people in France are not allowed to own a gun.

There is no right to bear arms in France, although, according to The Local, France has the 12th highest gun ownership in the world. The total number of guns is estimated to be approximately 10 million but there could be up to 20 million. Bear in mind that France in total has about 65 million people.

There are, however, widespread illegal weapons in France, those of which have been used in a majority of the terror attacks that have occurred in recent years.

Maybe analyzing other countries policies could be helpful. Maybe news outlets omitting the shooters name from being published and circulated would help. Maybe more young people like the students at Stoneman Douglas being activists towards gun regulation, activists like Stoneman Douglas herself will be helpful. What those students are doing is inspiring to say the least. But the United States government, and the figure “running” it who shall not be named, aren’t doing anything. No parent or sibling or spouse or friend should ever, ever have to worry about their loved ones going to *school* and not coming back. What I can say for sure is that “hopes and prayers” aren’t enough, they never have been. There has to be change. 

(Image: Enough is Enough ; Source: Getty Images / Rhona Wise)


  1. Zoe,

    I came across your post right after I was scrolling through Facebook and found a CNN video showing a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student debating Marco Rubio in front of a live audience. While I have also been frustrated and saddened by the fact that these massacres are still going on, it is giving me slightly more hope to see the students demanding action. Hearing about France’s policies make this even more frustrating, as I just cannot understand why America ignores the hard facts that show other countries have found a solution to one of our most tragic problems. I really hope this time is different and we continue to put pressure on politicians until change is actually made.

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